Quick click to freedom?

By Vusi | 09 July 2015 Blog home

At Blue Moon, we love being liked and followed just as much as the next bag of mixed nuts. But is social media as democratic as it claims to be? Or are we mere subjects of a virtual oligarchy? 

Recently, the world celebrated its sixth annual “Social Media Day”. Often the last place we go at night, or first thing in the morning, or both (and often in between), it’s become a global institution. Which begs the question: Is it “by the people, for the people”, or controlled by big brand budgets and the propagandistic science of algorithms?

 

Hidden agendas?

#1 The reach apocalypse

Reach refers to how many people see your post. Since Facebook started experimenting with paid versus organic reach, many business pages relying on the latter have been hard hit by the decline in visibility. Paying to boost content is now almost mandatory, to stay competitive.

Check out this graph which plots Facebook’s declining organic reach against it’s rising stock price for the same period.

#2 The mighty algorithm

We remember blinking twice when Search Engine Optimisation experts lectured us on the power of using key words in the Google landscape, but we didn’t ponder how it might affect what content would find its way into our Facebook feed.

Revealing the depth of Facebook’s algorithm machinery, slate.com asserts that: “If the word ‘congratulations’ is in the comments, a post gets a boost.”

This explains why a friend’s new baby dominates your timeline for an entire week, while other less celebratory posts take a back seat on-screen.

 

#3 Design and copy limitations

We once had a boosted post removed from Facebook because it included a word that ended in “besity”. (We can’t write the whole word here, because this post – if we boost it – will also be “quietly erased”.)

The guidelines we received mentioned that we might have used offensive language in our content. Add to that the rule regarding text on boosted designs and images and you have a “negative” on free speech and free design. Then again, controls like these are necessary to avoid discrimination and hate speech – just as there are laws to protect people from such things in most democratic constitutions.

 

But did you know?

Facebook’s banned in many countries (eee-dot-gee-dot, North Korea), more for its revolutionary power in allowing people to express themselves, access information and speak their minds, than for its media-mogul weaponry.

This quote inspires us: https://ello.co/wtf/about/ello-manifesto/

With social media recently becoming the most popular (many would argue addictive) pastime on the Internet, we’d love to know: how free and safe do you feel, expressing yourself online?